Religion a Scapegoat

no-more-oppression2.jpgA local newspaper is publishing a series of “get to know you” type interviews with local [DuPage county] public school administrators.

Tuesday’s paper featured a 34 year old, married, mother of two, middle school principle. The writer of the article, presented the long time educator with a number of questions related to family, career, interests, opinions, etc. One of the last questions asked was this;

If you could change one thing about the world…it would be?

Her answer was quite disturbing. She responded, “Eliminate ALL religions. All the negativity that exists in today’s society is due to religious beliefs: wars, hatred, racism.”


Now – I don’t know if this person considers herself an official “atheist” or merely a religious antagonist but her comment took me by surprise. Could someone who is well educated and supposedly committed to academic excellence really hold to this opinion? Apparently so. To assert that religion is the root cause of war, hatred, racism, suffering indeed the world’ ills is a spurious proposition that is limited in scope and historically and logically flawed.

In all fairness, while religion has done a lot of good in the world [obviously not a consideration of the principal] we must concede – it can be divisive and lead to conflict, cruelty, terrorism, and war. History proves this. However, history also proves that efforts at outlawing religion have produced the same kind of sad results. There have been several massive atheistic efforts to suppress and ultimately eliminate religion of any kind. In the 20th century, Soviet Russia, the Khmer Rouge, Cuba, Communist China, were all determined to keep religion from dividing society or eroding the power of the secular state. The result was not more peace and harmony, but more suffering and oppression. Atheism can claim no less responsibility when it comes to the world realities of war, hatred, racism, suffering.

In his book, The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World [2004], Dr. Alister McGrath [Christian theologian with a background in history, science and molecular biophysics] writes the following historical observation regarding atheism:

“The 20th century gave rise to one of the greatest and most distressing paradoxes of human history; that the greatest intolerance and violence of that century were practiced by those who believed that religion caused intolerance and violence.”

My point here is not to dismiss or humiliate the principal who was simply sharing her opinion about the problems of the world with a local newspaper reporter – rather it is note that a growing number of people in our culture, educated or not, carry a negative view of organized religion including but not limited to Christianity. Listening to and understanding their opinion and knowing how to respond in kind is important. But logical argumentation alone will not change public opinion. As Christians – as the Church – we must intentionally engage such skeptics not simply with words but acts and attitudes of love, compassion, and grace.

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:5-6

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re: the random-ness

Husband. Father. Senior Pastor of Parkview Community Church in Glen Ellyn, IL.

Ok...so you've located the place where I put down my random thoughts. The key word here is random: music, sports, art, food, books, news, spiritual musings, weird stories, etc. I'm especially interested in how everyday experiences of life intersect with the ancient stories of Scripture. Thanks for reading.
March 2008
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"No problem can withstand the assault of substantial thinking." Voltaire



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